A couple in their 50s have been charged with human trafficking after girls and women were procured for sex in the Edmonton area, says the province’s police team.
The 51-year-old man and 55-year-old woman were arrested Nov. 3 after an investigation by the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team’s (ALERT) human trafficking unit.
Investigators believe there are victims they have not yet reached and encourage them to come forward along with anyone who may have suspicions or knowledge of human trafficking.
ALERT started investigating human trafficking in Alberta in April.
Staff Sgt. Lance Parker, of ALERT’s human trafficking unit, said police were investigating the couple for about a month before laying charges. With the unit being so new, he said he doesn’t know yet how large of a program human trafficking is in the province but hinted that more charges will be announced in the near future.
“This was a two-person operation but (human trafficking is) definitively international or national at the very least,” he said. “Our victims come from all over. Pre-(COVID-19) it was pretty easy to move people around. Now during COVID, I’m not sure it is as easy but it is still happening.”
Parker wouldn’t confirm how many victims were involved in this investigation or their ages but said the girls who were involved were teenagers.
He said the goal of the unit is to better understand these kinds of crimes in order to conduct more effective investigations.
“Our victims do come from out east and Eastern Canada and in Western Canada,” Parker said. “Wherever the ports are. We’re just starting to identify that the victims are coming from everywhere. There are victims that are in Alberta, too.”
Kate Quinn, executive director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE), said she works with many people who have been sexually exploited, which has many elements found in human trafficking such as luring and grooming.
She said traffickers attempt to gain people’s trust in a number of ways such as being someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend or acting in someone’s best interest like a parent.
“Many minors and young people don’t feel they’re being trafficked at the beginning of their experience so they don’t often report to police or to youth workers because of what we call a traumatic love bond,” Quinn said. “Those who are traffickers know how to prey upon the vulnerabilities, especially of young people. We all want to be loved, we all want to be protected. They use that human need and then begin to control them.”
She said the impacts on a person who has been sexually exploited can have long-lasting effects, with some experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and using substances to numb the pain.
Quinn said Alberta is still working to fully understand the problem, including why there is a demand.
“Truthfully, if there were not some men seeking to buy sex services from minors, if there were not some men seeking to buy sex services online from women, the traffickers wouldn’t see a profit motive,” she said. “I think the big challenge in Alberta is to really try to understand who these men are who are seeking to buy sex services. They are driving the market for traffickers.”
Ross Pickering is charged with trafficking in a person; advertising the sexual services of another person; procuring; procuring a person under the age of 18; and obtaining material benefit from trafficking a person.
Anita Pickering is charged with trafficking in a person; procuring; and obtaining material benefit from trafficking a person.
Both suspects have been released on bail.
Published on: November 10, 2020
Retrieved from: https://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/edmonton-couple-in-50s-charged-with-human-trafficking-including-youths-for-sex-trade/wcm/4109ac8d-57fd-447c-81b4-f2a565e0b8a5?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR2TvdVStbCiFP8nFQlk2sDxozR7Dfm6pqnf5T7WN6fsmSYMzrA3Y0mcqGc#Echobox=1605043733